Tag Archives: Imago

So much dance we can’t keep up

It’s not just rock around the clock in Puddletown: It’s dance around the calendar. Autumn, winter, spring and even summer, you just can’t keep this town’s dancing feet down. Art Scatter senior correspondent Martha Ullman West has done her best to keep up with the action, and reports here on some of what’s been kickin’ in town lately.


By Martha Ullman West

Portland is having a dance boom, even though those who swim in Terpsichore’s wake are having a hell of a time staying afloat.

Danielle Vermette, Darren McCarthy in "Backs Like That." Photo: Sumi WuUsed to be things were winding down by the time you reached the summer solstice, and there definitely was a time when addicts like me found it impossible to get any kind of movement fix once the Rose Festival was over. Not this year — I actually had to make choices, not having managed the art of being in two or three places at once. So to several emerging choreographers as well as some much more established ones, I apologize for not making it to their performances and herewith offer some thoughts on those I did see.

I’ll start with Carol Triffle’s new musical Backs Like That, which I saw on June 18th. It’s the latest in her series of quirky commentaries on what Balzac called the human comedy, with more than a little irony implied, and as usual with an Imago piece, it is greatly involved with movement.

Continue reading So much dance we can’t keep up

It’s spring break: Scatter hits the links

CarlosAlexis Cruz and Mayra Acevedo as Pedro and his militant wife on an attempt to confront a human in "A Suicide Note from a Cockroach." Photo: Drew Foster

No, not the golf course. Mr. and Mrs. Scatter do not do the Scottish thing. (Maybe the Scotch thing, but that’s different.) This morning the Scattermobile is heckbent for the Oregon coast to take the salty waters for a few days, Large Smelly Boys in tow and hoping that some Susan Cooper on tape will quell the teen and pre-teen insurrections.

The Scatter notebooks will be included among the various baggage for this trek into the semi-wild, and yet we cannot guarantee that anything will emerge from them. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But the ingestion of clam chowder and fresh oysters is a better bet.

In the meantime, let’s do the links. Here are a few things from other places we think you might like to read:

COCKROACHES BITE THE BIG ONE. On Saturday night Mr. Scatter went to Imago Theatre to catch Pelu Theatre‘s circus-skill performance of A Suicide Note from a Cockroach …, an hour-long spectacle based on Nuyorican poet Pedro Pietri‘s 1979 piece A Suicide Note from a Cockroach in a Low Income Housing Project. It’s good, utterly nonrealistic stuff. A brief review is in this morning’s Oregonian, and you can read the the longer Oregon Live version here.

Melody Owen, "Drought in Kenya -- Buffalo," Elizabeth Leach GalleryMELODY FOR THE MEEK. Portland artist Melody Owen has a pair of shows up in town, one at Elizabeth Leach Gallery and one in The Art Gym at Marylhurst University.

They are both elegant exhibitions, and both consider, to one degree or another, the position in our midst of the meek — specifically, of the members of the animal kingdom, who have no say in the decisions that humans make about the world in which they live. Mr. Scatter reviewed the shows on Friday in A&E; you can read it here.

PBS UNPLUGS THE ARTS. Scatter friend Holly Sanders relayed this column from the always provocative Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal.

Continue reading It’s spring break: Scatter hits the links

The meaning (or not) of Tick Tack Type


What’s it all about, Alfie?

After a Friday evening of loosely organized chance in the company of Third Angle New Music Ensemble (the program included Terry Riley‘s endlessly mutable In C; California composer Mark Applebaum‘s similarly open-ended exploration of alternative musical “reading,” The Metaphysics of Notation; and Portland composer David Schiff‘s exhilaratingly jazz-charged Mountains/ Rivers, which takes inspiration from In C) we’re feeling a bit unmoored.

Since we’re in free-float anyway, this seems like a good time to check in on Imago.

One of the terrific side benefits when Jerry Mouawad develops a new show is that he thinks long and hard about what he’s doing, and then he writes about it online. Anyone who wants to take a peek can get an inside look into one of Portland’s most fertile creative minds. Mouawad, Imago’s co-founder with Carol Triffle, spills his thoughts on the company blog. The spilling isn’t always easy, because, ever aware of the virtues of theatrical suspense, Mouawad really wants to hold onto the beans.

“I assume this blog is vague since I am not divulging any of the action,” he writes about his new show, Tick Tack Type. “I apologize for this, but I am doing this for your sake (that is if you plan to see the work.) By discussing the action I am robbing you of the experience of it. What I see in an action may not be what you see. I can say this about Tick Tack Type: in many ways it’s about “seeing” or “not seeing.”
Continue reading The meaning (or not) of Tick Tack Type

Up, down, all around the town: ‘No Exit’ from the dance

Tim True and JoAnn Johnson in "No Exit." Photo: Jerry Mouawad/Imago Theatre

Art Scatter’s indefatigable chief dance correspondent Martha Ullman West, fresh from a sojourn in the Big Apple, hit the ground running on her return to Portland. In a week and a half she took in the Northwest Dance Project’s fall show, White Bird’s presentation of the Hofesh Shechter Company, Jim McGinn and Carla Mann’s “Exquisite Corpse,” and Imago Theatre’s teetering version of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit.” Herewith her report on her adventures:


In the past 10 days I’ve witnessed four performances, three of them easily classified as dance, the fourth, if we must be Aristotelian about this, as physical theater.

For my New York colleagues this would have been a light schedule. For me it was pretty packed.

Not that I’m complaining — it’s terrific, particularly in these times, that we get to see so much performance in our town. Portland artists are brave and bold, even when the work may not be, and White Bird continues to provide us with dance that ranges from the phenomenal (Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna) to the intriguing (Hofesh Shechter).

Let us begin with the Northwest Dance Project, which I attended opening night at the Newmark, on Friday the 16th. In a pre-curtain speech, executive director Scott Lewis stressed the importance of presenting new work, pointing with considerable pride to a program made up entirely of “world premieres” — a term which, like “world class” and pre-curtain speeches themselves, I wish would get lost in the stratosphere.

A cascade of water soaks Andrea Parsons in Sarah Slipper's "Not I." Photo: BLAINE T. COVERTHis pride in Dance Project artistic director Sarah Slipper’s new work, Not I, is justified.  While I wish I had known when I was watching Andrea Parsons perform this very demanding and emotion-laden solo that the monologue she was dancing to was the uncredited Samuel Beckett’s —  and while the video monitor on stage was a bit too reminiscent of Bill T. Jones’s controversial Still/Here, which also dealt with bodies raddled by illness and minds sinking into dementia — Slipper’s jitter-laden, despairing movement has stayed with me. And it’s passed this sure test: I’d like to see it again. Moreover, it was the only piece on this program that had a discernible beginning, middle and end.

But new does not necessarily mean good. Nor, necessarily, bad. Except for Not I, the work commissioned for this concert ranged from the mediocre to the ordinary. There were moments in the second part of Edgar Zendejas’s Bu Ba Bee when I began to hope he was going to make use of the energy of the dancers in this young company, and he did create a quite fine solo for Patrick Kilbane. But nobody moved much in the three-part work, and what’s more, I never did figure out what any of them was about, or their relationship to each other.

Continue reading Up, down, all around the town: ‘No Exit’ from the dance

Memories of “Vladimir, Vladimir”

Memories fade. They begin vividly and then start to decay. And worse than decay, they start to deform. Until they are no longer very reliable. Valuable perhaps but not reliable. And then they vanish altogether. That’s one good way to think about memory.

Another way to think about it. We store our memories in a honeycomb of chambers. Sometimes we wander into one of the chambers and it’s dried out and empty. Nothing there of consequence. And then maybe the chamber collapses entirely. Much of the time, though, the chambers contain SOMETHING — a little drama, a smell, a lesson, maybe a song, sung just so by James Brown (Please, Please, Please). Weirdly, we are often rummaging around these chambers, yes, even when we are young.

We could come up with some other metaphors, too, I suppose, but I want to consider these two a bit, and how they relate to Imago’s Vladimir, Vladimir,
which I saw earlier this month and having succumbed to germs (among other things) never got back to. So this discussion about memory isn’t about Imago, really, it’s about me! Though we will get to Jerry Mouawad’s Vladimir, which closed last weekend, one way or another and soon.
Continue reading Memories of “Vladimir, Vladimir”

More clowns gone wild via Carol Triffle

Thanks to Carol Triffle, this is an unplanned Part Two of the previous post on Monica Drake’s recently published nove Clown Girl and Triffle’s play at Imago The Dinner. To make utter and complete sense of it, insofar as that’s actually possible, you’re going to have to take a peek at the original post, below, which is fairly long. If you’re like me, though, you’ll just charge on through THIS post, figuring things out on the fly, and then decide whether or not you want to spend yet MORE time on clowns later! But really, that’s false advertising, because the posts aren’t about clowns themselves, they are more about the creation of clowns.

After I had written “Clowns are wild,” I sent the link to Ms. Triffle, just so she’d be up-to-date on the slanders and misapprehensions about her play that I’d committed to digital eternity. She was kind enough to respond, and here’s part of what she said in two pieces:

It’s funny that you wrote about the book Clown Girl because Chuck Palahniuk wrote the introduction to that book and his book Choke got me thinking of doing a show about the etiquette of dining. I haven’t read Clown Girl but I will.

So, for starters, a coincidence chain, with Chuck Palahniuk in the middle: Choke to The Dinner, Palahniuk to Clown Girl, (and then my connection of Clown Girl to The Dinner). This is common enough in Portland, I suppose, this overlapping, and part of the reason for an emergence of a certain “Portland style” or “approach” or maybe “embrace” — that I would venture to say that involves a mix of risk-taking, craft, humility (with self-confidence), consciousness of the social (both in the form of the audience AND of the work’s context), and, well, we might go on, but this is the subject for a Ph.D. thesis perhaps, not a parenthetical paragraph in a post about other things.
Triffle continues:

Like the line Dolores says in The Dinner “I fall down and then I get right back up again” that is my description of the human condition. The funny part is that she does it over and over again with not much success. Lecoq once told me to stop walking into walls and do what comes naturally. I did think of Lecoq while writing and directing this play. [A] Lecoq clown has a risky rawness that exposes our inner naivety and desires. Lecoq showed me that movement and timing can sometimes say as much as words.

Falling down and getting back up, yes, and from a certain perspective, it can be hilarious. Or “funny” as in “interesting.”
Continue reading More clowns gone wild via Carol Triffle

Clowns are wild: Imago meets Monica Drake

I’ve been worrying about Sniffles, the star of Monica Drake’s beguiling comic novel Clown Girl. She’s the kind of clown girl you would worry about, though. As her primary clown act, for example, she shapes balloons into religious tableaux — you know, manger scenes, Mother and Child, Annnunciations. She’s aiming ultimately for a balloon replication of Leonardo’s Last Supper. Except that she’s the only one who can “see” these things in the balloons, though her crown of thorns (misinterpreted as a tiara) and her sheep (from the manger scene) are popular with the kiddies. Sniff, you want to say, I’m not sure the religious balloon-tying bit is going to develop into a big clown hit.

But maybe this is the least of her problems. Clown Girl is a close accounting of a series of disasters with Sniffles right in the middle. Sometimes she ends up in the ER. Sometimes, it’s off to the Psych Ward, and despite the writer’s best efforts, you have some sympathy for the medical personnel who think that maybe that’s the best place for her. To quote blues queen Sippie Wallace: “You better get a doctor, honey, have him investigate your head.” Because by that time we’ve gotten a bead on the boyfriend, Rex Galore, the would-be Clown Prince: That just has train wreck written all over it, doesn’t it Sniff? But by that time you’ve already warned her several times. Don’t go on that “clown date” set up by your friend Crack! (Actually, maybe you should think twice about hanging with someone whose name is “Crack”.) Oh, and juggling the fire torches in an overgrown yard at 4 a.m.? I’d reconsider. Especially in your condition.

So yes, I’ve been worrying about Sniffles, because she’s quite sweet actually and vulnerable. She’s that kind of clown — not an aggressively transgressive Cirque clown, a circus clown, a “date” clown or a kiddie clown. She’s an artist clown in a world that doesn’t seem to appreciate such a thing. And though I may think her Kafka bit sounds pretty darn great, it’s a little like the religious balloons — who’s going to “get” your version of “Metamorphosis”? I want to give her career advice. My friends and colleagues know I’m full of career advice, most of it ridiculous. If Sniffles lived in Portland, Oregon, how could she make a living and still exercise her “artistic” sensibilities? Skills: balloon-tying (kinda), juggling (except with fire), a Charlie Chaplin bit (that might end up in the hospital), pain endurance, an intact ethical system, great courage and a knowledge of the classics.

Perhaps because I saw Imago’s production
of Carol Triffle’s new comedy, “The Dinner,” last week, I put one and one together, Clown Girl and Imago. At the same time, it finally occurred to me that clowning was a part of nearly everything that Imago does. (I say “finally” because I’ve watched them a lot during the past quarter century or so, and I say “clowning” with a broad definition of the term in mind. Maybe so broad as to render it useless as a description, for all I know. We’ll see.)
Continue reading Clowns are wild: Imago meets Monica Drake